European Aid May Depend on Fair Election

European Union assistance to Cambodia may hinge on the hold­ing of free and fair general elections next year and government progress in reforming the environmental and judicial sectors, a EU parliamentarian said on Friday.

Winding down a four-day visit to Cambodia, the delegation of six EU parliamentarians also said they backed a European monitoring mission for the upcoming el­ect­ion—the country’s third since the 1991 Paris Peace Agree­ments.

Cambodia is one of the world’s highest recipients of EU assistance per person and willingness to continue that support—earmarked at approximately $70 million for the period 2002-2004—depends on a credible general election, Christopher Huhne of the European Liberals, Demo­crats and Reform Party told a press conference.

“The EU, together with member states, is actually the largest donor to Cambodia. I think the political willingness to continue with that situation would obviously not be there if you could see there is a deterioration in the political situation,” Huhne said.

“I don’t think we’ve got to that point now, but clearly continued support depends on results,” he said.

“We have to answer to our electorate for how we spend and if we think we are putting money into a black hole we’re going to stop doing so.”

The EU sent observers to the commune elections in February, the first time ever a European team took part in monitoring a local poll.

Several national and international observer groups, including the EU, said the commune election vote passed without incident, but blasted the domination of the media by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP and the pre-election killing of some 20 candidates and party supporters.

Asked about the slaying of a Sam Rainsy Party supporter in Kompong Cham province last week—which human rights work­ers claim had the hallmarks of an assassination—Huhne said the delegation had been briefed by the UN and human rights organ­izations.

“What I heard, I didn’t like,” he said.

Christa Randzio-Plath of the Party of the European Socialists said intimidation, harassment and election-related killings created a climate of insecurity and the government must help to improve the situation.

She also called for the establishment of an independent hu­man rights commission in Cam­bo­dia.

Commenting on forestry issues in Cambodia, Patricia McKenna  of the Green Party/European Free Alliance said more transpar­ency was needed as well as the urgent undertaking of a study to determine the amount of forest cover still remaining in the country.

“One of the ways this question could very easily be answered is if the government would actually stop resisting the idea of having a study carried out on forest cover,” McKenna said.

The delegation arrived in Cambodia from Vietnam on Wed­nesday and met with Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim, Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh and opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

They were scheduled to depart from Siem Reap today.



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